I haven’t done one of these in a minute and it’s a good time to knock one out before a PPV.
Obviously the topic of this show is about the factions, stables, regimes, cliques, factgimes, alliances, corporations, unions, armies and cartels that made wrestling great for so many years.
Legends of Wrestling: Factions
Hosted by Gene Okerlund and the panel is: Tazz, Jim Ross, Mick Foley and….Ric Flair (this should be fun). Okerlund quickly teases Mick for his attire today.
JR defines a faction as three or more individuals that hang around long enough to get credibility and crowd identity.
Flair calls the Horsemen a faction and says within that there were two groups of Horseman that really defined that (I’d say three groups with Ole, Luger and Windham being the fourths…funny thing is everyone considers the Flair/Blanchard/AA/Windham version the best of the bunch but when they speak of that second group you are never sure if it’s Ole or Luger since both men have an equal share of detractors.) Mick jumps in with the mandatory Paul Roma quip and Flair says, no, neither he nor Sid Vicious were Horsemen. Fair enough.
Mick’s history in Factions started with Skandar Akbar’s Devastation Inc., which he described as a revolving faction because they had rotating members and were used to give a new guy instant credibility. Flair quickly disagrees and says DI was a ‘stable’. Foley mentions he was in Robert Fuller’s Stud Stable.
Tazz says the major faction in ECW was The Triple Threat. They were over and people hated them and they were the guys to get over. He mentions the bWo as a comedy Faction and Flair quickly shits on Douglass by saying he works at Wal-Mart (after last night’s debacle I’m hoping he didn’t quit). Tazz acknowledges that Douglass hasn’t always been nice to Flair.
Okerlund talks about the “Faction fueds” and mentions the Survivor Series and War Games. Ross wonders why the WWE hasn’t started using the War Games concept (you and I both, buddy). He talks about the heels always winning the coin toss. Ross says it was a great way to blow off a storyline and there was great TV leading up to it.
(Clip of Road Warrior Hawk cutting a pre-War Games promo. I loved his promos back in the day.)
And the cast of characters talk about the Match Beyond…We’ve got Michael Hayes, Triple H and Dusty (of course, it was his idea or at least he takes credit for it). Dusty goes into describing the psychology of the match, which as Scott put it, when the heels had the advantage it was gloom and doom for the faces but the minute the sides were even the faces dominated so the heat segments were all two minutes followed by awesome comebacks. Dusty talks about how Arn Anderson’s ability to work the match from beginning to end was a major reason for the success. Paul Ellering adds in some comments of his own.
Ross says the WWE is missing the boat by not having a strong faction and says that all the successful factions could spin out a star.
Foley talks about when The Rock joined the Nation and that gave him the platform to refine his skills and take off into the stratosphere. They follow with a clip of Rock running down the nWo at No Way Out 2002 for no other reason than it’s still very funny.
Back to the Horsemen, Flair said the genius behind the group was there were four guys that could wrestle and talk and celebrated excess. Ross says it was the natural chemistry that separated them from the pack. That chemistry was consistent in and out of the ring. The more short-term factions were ones that were only together for TV.
Tazz asks Flair who are the REAL four Horsemen and Flair says the Windham group was the best. Ole was great but he drifted off for a while. Flair talks about that group as being ultra-competitive among each other and quietly challenged each other to have the best match.
Mick says the most memorable faction in his mind was the nWo. Mick said they forced the WWE to get better and to change their ways. Mick talked about a backstage meeting where Vince admitted that his ideas might not be cutting it in 1997 and encouraged guys to inject more of their own personalities like Steve Austin did. Mick said eventually the group outlived its usefulness but for a few moments it was magic. Mick said the fans miss those interview segments when a group like the Horseman would speak about their matches for 6-7 minutes and could get fans excited about three different programs. That’s a great point.
Flair said the nWo was created in Japan and Bischoff took credit for. In his words it was compiled of average and slightly above-average talent and they were put over everyone on the roster every night. Flair said the Horsemen never won anything but that didn’t change their direction (actually they won War Games 1991). His point was the Horseman made their progress through interviews and talking points but the nWo had to beat everyone to stay credible and eventually it destroyed the company.
Tazz’s favorite faction was The Varsity Club. Interesting. He wasn’t sure how Kevin fit in with these great college athletes but it worked and of course it begat the Steiner Brothers so new stars were made.
(There’s a clip of a strange but funny interview between Magnum T.A. and Rick Steiner)
Ross talks about the vignette of Steiner going on his first date but they DON’T MENTION WHO IT’S WITH (It was with a young lady named ‘Woman’, also known as Nancy Sullivan and later Nancy Benoit).
Ross goes back into the Horsemen and talks about how they did have to wrestle a lot of different people and adjust their style. He talks about Arn and Tully having a great series with the Midnight Express in matches that will never be seen.
But Ross loves the original DX and of course Triple H spun out of that group and became a mega star. In it’s origin Shawn Michaels was the star of the group and eventually guys like the New Aged Outlaws became stars because they were able to show their personality.
(Clip of DX doing their parody of The Nation in 1998. Funny stuff.)
Flair talks about Evolution and said if he were 35 they would still be together. Flair said he couldn’t afford to eat with Hunter or party like Batista and Orton liked to. Flair said the key to the success of those factions was when they dispersed they were just as successful individually. Flair said if the Horseman were in WWF it would have been even greater. He said he ran the Horseman on his budget. In the WWF he would have had Vince’s budget and better production.
Ross goes to the Brood, which of course spawned Edge and Christian. They weren’t main eventers together but they got a ton of TV time. Mick said that Gangrel was supposed to be the star of the Brood but he couldn’t talk and when Edge got the change to grab the stick during one of the Gangrel’s bumbling sessions he took over the reins and eventually became the star.
Okerlund says one of the worst factions he can remember were the West Texas Rednecks. Which I totally disagree with because Perfect somehow made it work.
Mick talks about the various forms of The Dungeon of Doom and that it was basically a group of Hogan’s friends like Ed Leslie and John Tenta all banded against him. Mick says the worst faction he was part of was “The Union” which was a very very very short-lived grouping of him, Shamrock, Test, Big Show and Vince McMahon (the clip of them walking to the rest, with Test wearing a FUBU jersey is fucking hilarious). Mick says that his contract specifically states that The Union was a WWE properly.
Tazz says his worst group was “The Cabinet” with JBL and Orlando Jordan and Amy Weber. He said it just didn’t work.
Flair says the nWo was the worst faction and the worst thing that happened to the business. WHAT?!?!?! Give me a fucking break. Ask any of the boys about their financial records pre-nWo and then what it was during the nWo and come back to me. Flair still blames the nWo for the destruction of the business due to the selfish nature of the participants, which I can agree with, but I can’t blame the nWo for the end of the business but rather a poorly run company that didn’t respond well when the WWF regained its footing. The goal of the business is to provide an entertaining product and make money for the company and the workers, the nWo did that pretty well for a couple of years.
Ross has three – The No-Limit Soldiers (Ouch), Tazz and Foley can’t help but laugh as Ross rips this group. The Oddities, which spun from the Howard Stern stuff but Tazz says the Oddities was at least entertaining (man John Tenta is taking a beating on this show) and JR’s final group was The Spirit Squad. Foley liked them (I liked them too in a campy way) but Ross said they were comedians. Flair says they were too young and immature but they wanted to be there and tried their hardest. Foley wonders why they were disbanded so quickly. Ross just said they weren’t at the level of the guys they were booked to wrestle with (well no shit, they were booked with DX and Flair). But Flair said they wanted to learn and get better and got cut off a little early (Ironically it was supposed to be a vehicle for Kenny to emerge as a big star but it turned out Nicky was the guy who took the ball and ran with it as Dolph Ziggler). Probably the highlight discussion of this episode so far.
(Clips of a DX/Flair vs. Spirit Squad match on RAW)
Flair relays a story about Horseman shenanigans from The Crockett Cup. Typical stuff, if you’ve heard one Horseman story you’ve pretty much heard them all.
Ross has a story of he and Flair drinking prior to a flight to Charleston, West Virginia and the flight attendant in first class is flirting with them (mostly Flair since Ross is drunk) but near the end Ross and the attendant exchange information and she ends up becoming Ross’ wife.
Tazz tells a story about hearing stories about Flair and his antics in hotel lobbies.
Okerlund wants top three factions:
Foley: Varsity Club and he clowns on Rotunda going from Varsity Club captain to “Sailor” captain Mikey. Ross says you didn’t want to screw with the Varsity Club because Steiner, Rotunda and Dr. Death could hurt you. Foley also mentions Hot Stuff & Hyatt International and of course the Horseman.
Flair says Horseman, Freebirds and Evolution. He goes into the Freebirds and just says they were one of the greatest, more entertaining groups ever. Foley mentions the WWE World Class DVD and the far better independent one and says how it gave him such an appreciation for Buddy Roberts. Flair said Roberts had a great head for the business.
(Clip of a Freebirds promo in WCCW).
Tazz said the Freebirds were innovators. Flair says he believes Michael Hayes and Cher were an item for a while. Flair says the entrance music branded Dallas as the territory that came up with the entrance music first.
Tazz’s list is Freebirds, The Original DX and the Horseman. Tazz admits to Flair he wanted to be a Horseman but they would never have a Horseman from Brooklyn.
JR’s list is Horsemen and the 1997 Hart Foundation, he talks about the atmosphere at the Canadian Stampede and how it such a incredible event.
(Clips of the 10-man tag from that card with Austin having an amazing performance, one of the best in his career in my opinion. He fed more off that crowd than the Harts.)
JR’s final one is the original DX and he liked them because of the end result with Triple H becoming the big star and then later making stars out of the New Age Outlaws when that wasn’t the original plan.
And they pretty much close after that.
The Bottom Line: I’d go out of my way for any of these because they are all very good in their own way but this one is on the lower scale of the roundtables.